Singer Michael Burgess wanders into the tiny, funky Kit Kat restaurant in downtown Toronto as if he owns the place. The impression grows when a friendly waiter punches him on the arm and jokes: “Hey, I hear I’m working for you now!” Burgess has not actually bought the establishment, but it is a homecoming of sorts. For 3V2 years starting in 1989, he was Jean Valjean in the original Canadian production of Les Misérables at the Royal Alexandra Theatre. That was when the tenor spent a fair share of his spare time a half-block away at the Kit Kat. ‘This place reminds me of something you’d find in New York,” Burgess says, looking around at the graffiti-covered walls. “It was the only place I could get a cappuccino.”
Burgess was not there last week, however, to reminisce. Instead, he was talking about a project dear to his heart, the long-awaited release of his debut solo CD, A Place in the Sun. Those who regard Burgess primarily as a theatrical performer, or singer of national anthems at major sporting events, may be surprised by his range on the pop CD. The 13 selections include renditions of such songs as Love of My Life by the late Freddie Mercury of the rock group Queen, and Roch Voisine’s Waiting, as well as five songs written specifically for Burgess. In a nod to those who wanted him to release an album of songs from mega-musicals, he includes Bring Him Home from Les Misérables. “I didn’t want to be too predictable,” says Burgess. “I probably will do a show-tune album someday, but it will be my own approach.”
Being eclectic appears to have worked. Pop stations are giving the album good airplay, while at least one country station has put the tune I Think My Mind’s Gone Too into its rotation. Sales figures are not available yet, but the Toronto-based trade publication The Record predicts the CD will go platinum—sales of 100,000—in Canada.
Before starting on a cross-Canada
concert tour in September, Burgess will spend August in New York City playing a supporting role in an independent movie, An Englishman in New York. As a bonus, the producer of the romantic comedy, Nigel Bennett, has decided to use one of the songs from the album, To Love, in the movie. “I am just thrilled,” says Burgess
with obvious understatement, “at how everything has turned out.”
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